In Gershwin’s handwritten score of “Rhapsody,” he sketched out the notation for his piano solo but left a small section blank in the second draft, as by then copyists were helping notate each change that he was making as the piece came together. That solo section stayed blank in the third and final score arranged by Ferde Grofé, with only a note to conductor Paul Whiteman to “wait for nod” when Gershwin launched into his solo.
The Library’s vast collection of papers documenting “Rhapsody’s” birth has been a boon to researchers, academics and fans for decades. But the Library, which has prominent pieces of the George and Ira Gershwin Collection on long-term display, has now digitized George Gershwin’s original manuscript copy. It’s in pencil, with his neat, all capital block lettering spelling out “RHAPSODY IN BLUE – FOR JAZZ BAND AND PIANO” across the top of the first page. It’s dated Jan. 7, 1924, a few days after Gershwin reluctantly agreed to compose a piece for an upcoming concert by Whiteman’s band.